Norma Jean Sanders, 90 years old, peacefully transitioned to her heavenly home on March 13, 2023 in Lynchburg, Virginia. She was born in Harriman, Tennessee to Clarence and Grace Parrish (Indiana) and was the seventh of eight children.
Norma was preceded in death by her husband, J.C. Sanders, Jr., two older brothers, James and Fletcher Parrish, and three sisters, Evelyn Moody, Helen Luker, and Geraldine Greene. She is survived by two sisters, Eloise Thate and Doris Keny. Norma is also survived by four sons including Kevin Thompson (Kathy), David Sanders (Deborah and daughters Ashley and Brittany), Daniel Sanders (Frieda), and Jim Thompson (Abby and daughters Jennifer McGinn (Mike) and Lindsay Ellis (Dan)) as well as several great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. In particular, Norma was compassionately cared for in the later years of her life by her special niece, Elaine Stafford and her husband Henson, to which our family will forever be grateful.
In the early years of Norma’s life, she was a proud graduate of Harriman High School and remained friends with her classmates through reunions and gatherings over the years. She worked at AT&T and also as a bank clerk for many years as she raised her two sons as a single mother. She took her boys to Roane County Park to swim, “Goldrush Junction” (now Dollywood), and always protected her boys like a mamma bear. She made many lifetime friends during her years at work and church. She continued working hard to meet the needs of her sons while also ensuring they became successful, caring, strong and compassionate young men. She made it a priority to build a foundation of faith for her boys through her community at Trenton Street Baptist Church where she was a faithful member. In 1969, Norma married J.C. Sanders, Jr., the father of twin sons, David and Daniel. This was the beginning of a life of joy and happiness for Norma. In a year that a man walked on the moon, Norma was complete with the man who “loved her to the moon and back.” Shortly after their marriage, they relocated to Norfolk, Virginia in service to the United States Navy. J.C. Sanders was deployed overseas on several occasions. During this time, Norma remained at home to raise four teenage boys. At the age of 37, she obtained her first driver’s license so that she could take her boys to school, sporting events, and to provide for her new family in her husband’s absence. Their boys became young men during those years and graduated from high school in Norfolk, Virginia. Norma and J.C. lived happily in Norfolk for about 20 years. After J.C.’s death in 1989, Norma eventually moved back to Harriman, Tennessee to be near her friends and family. After returning, Norma lived in Harriman for about 30 years where she was reunited with her life-long friends and church family. She endured many health battles over those years and was a breast cancer survivor.
As one looks back over Norma’s life, it is easy to say the things she loved. She loved her Lord, Jesus Christ, Trenton Street Baptist Church, animals (especially cats and never knew a stray), made friends for a lifetime, always a faithful Tennessee Vols fan, was an avid Jeopardy fan, enjoyed good mystery shows, and always dreamed of becoming an FBI agent. She remained a faithful patriot and always loved her country. She loved being a pink lady (hospital volunteer), helping seniors at church, giving to causes she believed in (particularly Saint Jude Children’s Hospital), and keeping active with school classmates and reunions. She loved and respected Billy Graham, adored work from Thomas Kincaid, the Painter of Light, collected beautiful dolls, and continued to always love her beloved mother and family.
Norma will be laid to rest next to the love of her life, J.C. Sanders, Jr., at Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia on March 17, 2023 at 1:00 P.M. A subsequent memorial service and celebration of her life will be conducted at Trenton Street Baptist Church on March 24, 2023 at 12:00 P.M. in her beloved hometown of Harriman, Tennessee. Friends will be her honored guest for visitation with family from 11:00 A.M to 12:00 P.M. A private luncheon of family members will be held following the memorial service. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to be made in Norma’s honor to the Saint Jude’s Children’s Hospital or Trenton Street Baptist Church in Harriman, Tennessee.
Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg is assisting the family.